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the Mink Test

245

Comments

  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    Well, I have to disagree that the problem was the road testers didn't know how to drive German cars. The testers' driving style was much closer to that of the typical American driver, so their results and findings were more relevant than "how they drive them in Germany." If people were fouling the plugs on Mercedes cars in the 1960s, that is because the cars weren't well adapted to American driving habits. Which, in my book, is a problem with the cars.

    And I question whether the Mercedes would be a better long-distance car than a Cadillac in those days. First, most of the interstate highways were fairly new in those days, so the Cadillac's softer ride wouldn't have led to that much tiresome bobbing and weaving. If anything, the firmer ride of the Mercedes would have been more tiring. Not to mention higher levels of wind and road noise, which wear me out much faster than anything else. And don't forget that the Cadillac driver would have had enjoyed the far superior comfort provided by automatic climate control - at a time when Mercedes was probably proud of having an effective windshield defroster. (Unless this road test were happening in perfect, 60 degree weather.) Not to mention the Cadillac's cruise control, which would have eliminated fatigue with the driving leg. I don't think Mercedes even offered it.

    For that matter, many of the comfort and convenience devices perfected by Cadillac - climate control, power door locks, power windows, power seat, cruise control, tilt-telescope steering wheel, AM/FM stereo - were derided by import enthusiasts at the time as silly and frivilous. Today, of course, every car - including Mercedes - offers them.

    As for the superiority of Mercedes engines - I recall reading that Mercedes engines at this time were prone to blowing head gaskets. This when a Cadillac's engine and transmission were considered virtually bulletproof.

    And the Cadillac engine's greater size wasn't just for performance. First, the great majority of luxury car buyers in the late 1960s expected their cars to be big and heavy. (Lots of them still do - witness healthy sales of the Escalade, Navigator, Land Cruiser and Range Rover. For that matter, the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-Series are hardly featherweights.)

    Second, Cadillac needed a bigger engine to power conveniences such as air conditioning, power steering, power windows, etc., that weren't even available on many "luxury" imports at that time. And if those options were available on the imports, they were unreliable and ineffective.

    So, even from the vantage point of 2003, I'd still consider the Cadillac to be a better luxury car buy in the late 1960s. I disagree that, by then, Cadillac "was on the skids." Smug and complacent - yes. But Cadillac didn't hit the skids until the early 1970s.
  • argentargent Posts: 176
    Climate control was certainly an area where American luxury cars had a big advantage in the 60s. Air conditioning took longer to catch on in Europe, and I understand that Mercedes was particularly notorious for ineffectual and troublesome A/C.

    I dunno about MB's 60s engines, but it is true that the Cadillac V-8 was one of the best American engines of the period in reliability, refinement, and efficiency. The 1964-1967 429 was surprisingly light, too -- it had a dry weight of 595 pounds, which is only 60 pounds heavier than a Chevy 283, 90 pounds lighter than a Chevy 396/427, and a whopping 155 pounds lighter than Lincoln's 430/462. Not bad at all for a 7 liter cast-iron engine.
  • I couldn't agree with any of that, as I know both cars intimately. A '66 Cadillac is condemned by its size, weight and unsophisticated suspension to be a somewhat clumsy, under-braked, gas-hungry vehicle that does what it does very, very well--but handling and braking aren't two of those things by any stretch. In that department they have no particular competence relative to Benz of the day. Nor did any American car except perhaps the '66 Corvair.

    A realistic 0-60 time for a '66 Caddy would be 10 seconds or a bit more. I feel I could get a '66 250S to do 0-60 in about 12.5 on a two-way average. Let's say I can't be certain but I'd bet on it, and I'd bet against a stock '66 Caddy doing a 9 second run on a two-way average.

    A/C? No contest. GM had that down pat.

    But comin' down the mountain with drum brakes and bias tires and 4,500 pounds while trying to race a Mercedes with disk brakes and radials and 3,100 lbs would be fun to watch.

    Actually I think Cadillac went on the skids in 1959. The sacrifices to styling over function turned a corner right then and there. It really never got better after that until the 1990s.

    You have to remember that "skids" is relative. It depends on how high a height you started with . And at one time, in prehistoric days, Cadillac was very very high. We aren't talking Nash here.

    If a drunk sobers up and becomes a shoe salesman, we rejoice; if a college professor does that, we lament. So I'm saying that being a shoe salesman in 1966 wasn't good enough for a name like Cadillac.

    Maybe it's because I'm old enough to remember the glory days as a kid, when Cadillac's name was like gold. So it could be a generational prejudice. I held out until around 1971, when I gave up a very clean 1964 Cadillac. That's the last one I ever owned. Of course, as an appraiser, I get to drive the old ones all the time. I'd say my favorite was a 1955 coupe or the '49 fastback.
  • argentargent Posts: 176
    I assume that the sub 9-second 0-60 times CAR LIFE and others got on '65-'66 Caddys was probably done with dragstrip starts -- starting in L and shifting manually, etc. -- that aren't representative of what an owner would normally achieve (MOTOR TREND's test of a mechanically identical '66 De Ville was around 10.5 seconds 0-60, which seems a more represenative "street start"). But...since the acceleration times for their Lincolns, Imperials, et al were presumably achieved the same way, the advantage that the Cadillac had in acceleration is still meaningful.

    As for the handling, having not ever experienced any of these cars in their contemporary timeframe, it's hard for me to make a personal judgment. I learned to drive on a VW Rabbit and I currently own a Honda Prelude with four-wheel steering, so even cars that were heralded as decent handlers in their day (a Valiant, for example) seem barge-like to me...
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,704
    How were Mercedes and Volvo cars looked upon by American import buyers back in the '60s? I know that Mercedes' most expensive model was the 300SE (about $8600), and Volvo's was the P1800 (about $4200); these are figures for 1966, to clarify. But could even a costly '66 Volvo match a '66 Mercedes in terms of fit, finish, and braking/handling?
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    No one is denying that Mercedes outbraked and outhandled any 1960s Cadillac. The objection is to declaring the Mercedes a better car on those criteria. The average American luxury car buyer did not place a high priority on those attributes in the 1960s. Cadillac still led in those areas - luxury features (power assists, AM/FM stereo), easy driving (automatic transmissions, power steering/brakes), comfort (power seats, climate control, plush ride) and reliability - that were important to American luxury car buyers at that time.

    Mercedes pulled away from Cadillac in the 1970s by strengthening its core attributes (great braking and handling, structural rigidity) while making its cars more palatable to a wider audience. It did this by adopting better air conditioning and more power assists, while also making its cars more compatible with American driving conditions and habits.

    Cadillac, on the other hand, failed to grasp what made Mercedes appealing. It also either abandoned those qualities that had made it special (reliability, a higher level of workmanship) or let its formerly unique attributes (luxury features and refinement) be matched by cars from lesser marques. By 1974 there wasn't a good reason to buy a Cadillac instead of a Chevy Caprice or Oldsmobile Delta 88.
  • that's just the point. A Cadillac WAS a Chevrolet in the 1970s. It just had more weight, better trim and more sound deadening.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,606
    ...if I were going to buy a GM luxury car, I'd probably go with an Electra or 98 over a Caddy DeVille. I always liked the Toronado and certain years of the Riv better than the Eldorado, too. It just seems that the big Olds and Buicks were pretty tastefully done, and somehow, the interior materials actually look more upscale!
  • argentargent Posts: 176
    The Buick Electra/Olds Ninety-Eight/Pontiac Bonneville C-bodies by that point were certainly cheaper than the Cadillac, looked a lot alike, and were mechanically increasingly similar. The advantage the Caddy had was superior resale value -- depreciation on Cadillacs during that period was very low. That holds up today for special-interest/collector cars, too...there's a following that collects Cadillacs of that period, whereas a big Buick of the same vintage is just a (very) old car at this point.
  • I remember film clips of the "tests" the Big Three did on cars....you'd see photos of the cars in blocks of ice or in front of giant fans with fire hoses playing on the car, or in huge heat ovens (to test the a/c). I even saw one film of a 356 Porsche mule with a Corvair engine installed, being tested by GM in snow country. I was very impressed by these things.

    Cadillac played the luxury violin way too long, to where their commercials became a parody of themselves. You know, Jeeps were crashing through creeks, and Mercedes were screaming down the autobahn, and Fords and Chevys were racing in NASCAR, but you look at 60s and 70s Cadillac commercials and you have to wonder what kind of audience they were thinking they were talking to (probably an audience that couldn't hear the commercial anymore).

    I remember thinking when the Toronado first came out, and then the Eldo, that something exciting was happening, although I was too young to know exactly what that might be.

    But these cars turned sour on us. I guess I wanted a 1976 Cadillac to be more like a 1996 Cadillac.

    I revisited a '76 Cadillac recently just to see if my prejudices were unwarranted. Of course, looking at it with modern eyes, the assessment wasn't very flattering. Maybe in 1976 it was adequate but you can still see Cadillac's pending doom in the 80s in the '76 model.

    Again, hindsight is always 20-20 I guess.
  • wq59bwq59b Posts: 61
    The '68 Mercedes 250 I talked about features a 4-speed automatic & 4.07 gearing. It also weighed (a rather rounded-off) 3000 lbs. With the better ratio spacing, high numeric gears and relativly low weight, it's should've been a hell've lot faster than mid 14s to 60... except of course it has hardly any horsepower or torque.

    I hear the points well made about the Chevy/Plymouth/etc, but these cars were hardly competition with the Mercedes, and these same cars could ALSO be had with over 400 HP with Super Stock options.

    According to the article, Mercedes 'bench-ran' their engines up to 2 hours before installation. Cadillac at the same time ran theirs on a dynomometer on average between 15 to 20 minutes. 'Breaking-in' of Cadillac's engines was totally unneccessary due to extremely precise manufacturing tolerances, and they could be driven at top speeds indefintely, right off the showroom floor. The Cadillacs that placed 2nd in the '71 and first in the '72 Cannonball Run were indeed literally 'right off the showroom floor'. Caddy bested Mercedes yet again in those competitions, and these were the "on-the-skids" early 70s models everyone is so down on here. Quality may have been lower than previous years, I don't know, but powertrains were still bulletproof & formidable performers.

    Cadillac general manager Harold Warner was quoted (1960): "The only reason for lengthy running-in these days is because you didn't build the engine well enough to begin with." Very true.

    I could go into much deeper detail regarding some of the many machining operations done with the 'prime directive' of precision manufacturing. The sheer excellence of Cadillac's of the '60s is often overshadowed by those 'the grass is always greener' types who don't find one of the world's finest luxury cars of the time to their particular 'enthusiast' tastes.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,606
    ...I know the Grand Ville was on a 126.3" wheelbase, while the Catalina/LeSabre/Delta 88 were on the 124", with the Bonneville switching back and forth in the 70's. Was that 126.3" wb the C-body, though? I know the Electra/98 were close, on a 127" wb, but they still look like much bigger cars.

    It's mainly obvious in the roofline and the rear doors, which look longer on a C-body than a B-body, reflecting a bigger back seat. I always thought that 126.3" wb model was just a B-body with an extra long hood and front fenders. Been ages since I've seen one, though, so I'm drawing a mental blank.
  • argentargent Posts: 176
    Hmm, looks like you're right -- according to the Standard Catalog of Pontiacs, all the 70s Bonnevilles and Grand Villes were B-bodies.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,606
    ...thanks for confirming that. For some reason that was always one of those niggling little things that always bugged me! Pontiac did do a good job of fluffing those cars up though, so they looked more "important" than a lowly Catalina!
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,704
    I don't understand why Cadillacs have a very high rate of depreciation on their recent models ('90s), whereas the '60s models had really low depreciation and are now coveted by collectors.
  • I think you have the engine story a bit garbled, and may have misinterpreted the running-in times and what they mean.

    The reason a Cadillac engine from the 60s was only run for 20 minutes was because it was not a precision engine. You cannot run a precision engine at max RPM when it is new, at least not back in the 1960s. Even now it's a bit risky.

    This is why racing engines are built to a loose tolerance, so that they can be run up quickly and hard.

    Also, Cadillac, like GM and the other Big Three, ran their engines briefly on a dyno to see if they met the minimum HP standards. If they did, they drove them into the marshalling yards. If they didn't, they pushed them into another area to be torn down to see what the problem was. The brief running time had nothing to do with "precision". Quite the opposite. An engine was either "good enough" or not, and most Cadillac engines were plenty good enough.

    Benz at the time was thinking more along the lines that the Japanese were thinking, which was--let's build the car more carefully to begin with, since it takes as much time to build a bad car as a good one. The Big Three were only thinking in terms of the speed of production, not the quality, as they were, in the 1960s, in a seller's market with not very much competition. I'm sure Cadillac execs thought that Benz engines were puny little things, unsuitable for their big cars. And they were absolutely right.

    I remember touring GM plants in the early 70s, and engine building was a pretty slam-bang affair. I recall seeing pistons being driven in with large wooden hammers.

    A Benz engine of the 60s needed 2 hours or so running in because it was built to higher tolerances than a cast-iron Cadillac block, as it had to run at much higher rpm its entire life. You cannot run a '60s CAdillac engine at 5000 rpm all day long, you will damage it. It isn't built for that internally.

    The proof that this is so, aside from the luxury of just taking both engines apart, is to notice that per cubic inch, the Benz engine is much more efficient. It is precision that can give a small engine this advantage.

    This is why, for instance, a Honda S2000 sports car is really not that much slower than a Corvette, the latter with an engine of 3 times the size.

    This is not to suggest that a 60s Benz engine belonged in a Cadillac, or vice-versa. Both engines would be horribly unsuitable for each other's cars and goals.

    Last of all, Benz was building a car for Europe. A Cadillac of those days was too inefficient to run in Europe, and too large. This is why Benz later built smaller engine versions of its US models and stripped down versions for European tastes and budgets.

    Bascially, a 1969 Cadillac is no more advanced than a 1949 Cadillac, nor any more precise or well built.

    This is the genius of American production. Built fast, built well enough to do the job, built in large numbers, and a good value for the money. Obviously a winning formula that still works for us in trucks, SUVs, muscle cars, but not much luck with it in luxury autos or entry-level compacts.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,405
    that there was no "break-in" requirement for 60s Caddys? I'd be surprised if that were true for two reasons--

    1)Per Mr Shiftright's comments they were mass produced and probably didn't have exceptionally close tolerance except compared to other mass-produced engines of their time.

    2)If tolerances were in fact exceptionally close cylinder walls might scuff more readily if they were not broken in carefully.

    Correct me if I'm wrong. I'm no expert on Caddy yaks.
  • wq59bwq59b Posts: 61
    Mr S- IMO: you have an extremely slanted & disparaging view of Cadillac and you obviously blow right over numerous facts that contradict your breezy generalizations. 'Cadillacs are just Chevrolets' and 'bus engines shame Cadillac engines' is pure laughable fabricated nonsense.

    The facts remain- Cadillac outperformed Mercedes in the 50s, the 60s and into the late 70s in almost every criteria of consumer focus, yet some people still try and pull the modern day 'perception blanket' back 3 or 4 or 5 decades, fooling themselves that what may be now always was then. "Philosophy" does not assure "reality".
    - - - - - - -

    The only C body I am aware of is the Fleetwood Sixty Special. In 1970 it's wheelbase was an amazing 133", but at least you got freestanding footrests & tray tables in the rear seat with the extra length. The Series 75 limos rode 149" wheelbases (in '70 & for many years) and were the only D bodies.
  • wq59bwq59b Posts: 61
    Andys120- you are incorrect; Cadillac's manufacturing tolerances were tighter and more exact than any other manufacturer- it's the very hallmark of Cadillac's creation. Founder Henry Martin Leyland wasn't called the 'Master of Precision' idily.

    While Cadillac was on the low-end of 'mass-production' in the '60s (all production was still in one plant), that does not mean measurable superior results cannot be obtained & sustained. After all, the best human hand-finishing cannot equal the precision machine tool, either in initial accuracy or consistancy. Read over my posts above- as Dave Berry says "I am not making this up".

    Here's the text from a 1968 Pontiac Owner's Manual:
    "We recommend the following- Avoid sustained high speed driving during the first 600 miles as shown below:
    1st 200 miles - limit speed to 50 MPH
    2nd 200 miles - limit speed to 60 MPH
    3rd 200 miles - limit speed to 70 MPH
    Care should be exercised when operating in lower gears to avoid high engine speeds ususally caused by rapid acceleration during the break-in period."

    Here's the text from a 1972 Buick Owner's Manual:
    "Limit speed to a maximum of 65 MPH during the first 100 miles with moderate stopping & starting. After the first 100 miles, speeds may be increased gradually as mileage accumulates, but up to 500 miles avoid driving for extended periods at any one speed."

    Here's the text from a 1966 Cadillac Owner's Manual:
    "Your new Cadillac is ready for all normal driving just as you receive it from your dealer. Precision manufacturing techniques have prepared it for the road and a formal break-in period is not required."

    Don't you think it rather unlikely that Cadillac -nearing 'mass-production' as it was- would risk financial ruin with massive warranty costs & horrendous publicity associated with broken-down & oil-burning new engines just so they could lie about the break-in period????

    Well beyond the 3 random Owner's Manuals I happen to have handy- Cadillac's no break in period is well documented, and the reason is superior machining techniques.

    What do Mercedes Owner's Manuals say???
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    Andre and argent: When Pontiac brought out the Grand Ville in 1971, it was a B-Body with a C-body greenhouse. Pontiac had been trying to get corporate approval for use of the C-body for years, but management said "no." This was a compromise. At least, that is what Jim Wangers claims in his book "Glory Days - When Horsepower and Passion Ruled Detroit."

    jrosasmc: In the 1960s, GM deliberately held Cadillac production below demand, which boosted used car values. A quality product with attractive features and styling, combined with production held below demand, resulted in a car with great resale value and a golden public image. Unfortunately, by the 1970s GM forgot that formula.
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